Two things found a way to spoil The Mac Jones Era’s premiere on Sunday: Penalties and turnovers. And in a major way, too, as Jones and the Patriots found themselves on the losing end of a 17-16 final to the Dolphins at Gillette Stadium.
On the hook for two turnovers compared to one by the Dolphins, and with eight penalties accounting for nearly 90 yards by the night’s end, the Patriots had no business even being in this game with such uncharacteristic miscues.
But with New England down by four midway through the fourth quarter, it was actually a mistake by Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa that gave the Patriots the opening they needed to potentially put themselves out front.
Looking for a third-down conversion but with the walls closing in on him, Tagovailoa successfully evaded a charging Adrian Phillips and found himself on the run and with Matthew Judon in hot pursuit. And though Judon got his money’s worth with an absolutely brutal hit on the second-year Miami starter, it wasn’t before the ball was airborne, where it was bobbled about three or four times before it ended up in the hands of Patriots cornerback Jonathan Jones for the interception.
But the Patriots failed to make it count, as their promising-looking march to paydirt came to abrupt end on a Damien Harris fumble, and on the Miami nine-yard line, completely derailing the momentum and forcing the defense into another must-stop.
That stopped failed to come, however, as the Patriots used all their timeouts before Miami’s Jacoby Brissett powered his way over the line for a successful 3rd-and-1 conversion to secure a Dolphin victory.
The fumble, which was the second of the day following a first-quarter fumble by rookie back Rhamondre Stevenson, put the Patriot offense on the sidelines for the rest of the evening, and wasted was a 29-for-39 performance from Jones, who totaled 281 yards and a touchdown through the air in the losing effort.
The good news is that Jones and the Patriots seemed to improve as the game went along following a a bit of a rocky start, as the Patriots scored on just one of their first four drives, which came with three points on a Nick Folk connect from 27 yards out.
But the Patriots recovered for a touchdown before the half’s end, as Jones connected with Nelson Agholor for a seven-yard score to give New England their first and only lead of the afternoon.
Tied at 10-10 through 30 minute of action, the Dolphins jumped back out front with a nine-play, 75-yard drive capped by a Jaylen Waddle three-yard touchdown catch. It was as versatile an attack as you’d see from the Dolphins all game, with Miami at one point running the Wildcat offense to pick up some extra yardage in the New England zone.
In addition to the penalties and fumbling woes, an inability to convert on drives was a big issue for the Patriots in this losing effort, too, as the team had three separate drives of at least 14 plays, but combined to total just nine points on those drives.
Harris finished the night as New England’s leading rusher, with 100 yards on 23 carries, while Agholor led the Patriots with 72 receiving yards. The Patriots also had four different players with at least five catches, with five catches from Agholor and Jonnu Smith to go with six catches for James White and Jakobi Meyers.
This was also the Patriots’ first Week 1 home loss since 2017.
The Patriots will head on the road for a Week 2 showdown with the Jets at MetLife Stadium.
Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.